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Plusher jail cells for moneyed convicts erode confidence in our criminal justice system

Plusher jail cells for moneyed convicts erode confidence in our criminal justice system
A Beverly Hills Police jail supervisor looks out the window of the women's pay to stay jail cell dorm on Jan. 17. (Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: Who knew that our criminal justice system had its own timeshare business, allowing inmates with the means to do so to stay at jails that offer more amenities? This is simply one more way that public confidence in our system is eroded. ("Upgrade your jail cell — for a price," March 9)

It's one thing to give this option to drunk drivers who haven't physically harmed anyone, but as the article makes clear, deluxe accommodations go to almost anyone with the cash. This is demoralizing on so many levels.

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Blaise Jackson, Escondido

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To the editor: I have worked within the California prison system as a licensed psychologist, and it is my belief that allowing certain individuals (depending on the nature of their crime) to pay for their jail time is appropriate.

As there are so many abuses within the system, which I have seen myself, and reported on to the administration, the ability of an individual to avoid at least some of such is fully warranted.

I agree it is unfortunate that not everyone convicted of a crime can have a choice concerning his or her incarceration, but two wrongs do not make a right. We are all entitled to the best care, which is certainly not available within the American judicial system. This is why prison reform remains critical.

I would also suggest the creation of a fund to which others can contribute for persons unable to afford better prison care.

Marne Trevisano, Atascadero

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To the editor: For the ultimate in jailhouse "opportunities," I suggest that readers check out "Marching Powder" by Rusty Young and Thomas McFadden, a book about the San Pedro prison in La Paz, Bolivia.

In the 1960s, as a Peace Corps volunteer living not far from the mysterious huge prison covering several city blocks in Bolivia's capital, I wondered about it and heard rumors. The notorious San Pedro prison has its own economy, special upgrades for folks who negotiate within the system and even a section where families live with the inmates. The children go to school — from the prison.

What's next for Los Angeles? The report by Young and McFadden is compelling reading.

Ginny Atherton, Atherton, Calif.

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To the editor: I am not outraged about the practice of paying to serve a sentence in a safer, community jail. But it seems to me that the real outrage here is that the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department allows the brutality, beatings and rapes that are so common in county jail, and these are the reasons that those who can afford it pay to stay in a safer jail.

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Incarceration — the deprivation of liberty — is supposed to be the punishment for crimes committed. Beatings and rapes should not be part of it.

George Carney, San Gabriel

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